KCCD hires investigator to review case on BC faculty members

Javier Valdes, Copy Editor


Bakersfield College faculty members believe that they have become a target for the Kern Community College District. On Oct. 1, a BC faculty member filed a formal complaint against BC English professor Kate Pluta, BC women’s basketball coach Paula Dahl, and a BC administrator, all which are now under investigation by the KCCD.

Interim dean of student success Janet Fulks confirmed that the faculty members in question were not notified until Oct. 28 about the complaint, in which Dahl and Pluta were initially called in to report to the district office, as witnesses to speak to a KCCD hired investigator. They were not given warning or information about what or whom the complaint involved.

It wasn’t until the union requested a copy of the complaint that Dahl and Pluta realized that they were not being called in as witnesses, but as the accused in the complaint.

Fulks said that after Dahl and Pluta realized that they were being accused, they requested to reschedule the meeting with the district in hopes that they could contact a lawyer for representation. The district denied to reschedule.

Although The Rip could not obtain the exact content of the complaint, Fulks was able to confirm the reason as to why the faculty members were being investigated. “They were told they were being investigated for violating district policies in using KCCD resources to send email, and hosting social media on the district/college website during the Team Sonya campaign,” said Fulks.

On Nov. 2, Dahl and Pluta separately met with an investigator hired by the KCCD to question and investigate the faculty members. During the meeting, the accused were asked nine questions, prepared by the district, which mostly related to T-shirts that were sold to show support for BC president Sonya Christian during her recent contract battle with the KCCD.

The accused were asked whether they sold T-shirts or used BC email to sell T-shirts, as well as where funds to purchase the t-shirts were acquired.

In a letter to the Bakersfield Californian, Bakersfield College planetarium director Nick Strobel wrote that questions asked to the accused BC faculty members also included, “possible campus discussions of the president’s contract and her evaluation—questions not even remotely pertaining to the content of the complaint.”

The way in which the KCCD has handled the investigation of the formal complaint has led BC faculty members to believe that the accused faculty members are being targeted by the KCCD in retaliation to those who supported Christian during her contract battle with the district.

Since the complaint came to light to BC faculty members, the We Are BC Facebook page, that was used to continuously support the BC president when her contract was in question, has been taken down.

On Nov. 12, the KCCD held a special meeting where the only item on the agenda stated, “Public Employee Discipline/Dismissal/Release/Reassignment.”

It is not clear whether the board discussed the complaint against Dahl and Pluta during the closed session, as they did not comment on the specifics of the item on the agenda.

During the special meeting’s public comment, BC English professor Kathy Freeman addressed the board to make it known that the Community College Association union had filed a grievance against the KCCD. According to Fulks, the reason for the grievance centered on procedure and not following policy.

BC faculty members felt that the district failed to follow procedure and policy, as noted in the KCCD faculty contract, in regards to the complaint in question. The KCCD faculty contract states that complaints made against faculty members shall confer with the faculty member within 10 working days, which the district failed to follow in regards to the accused faculty.

The faculty contract also states that “the faculty member shall be notified that (1) a complaint has been made (2) he or she is entitled to representation by the bargaining agent,” both which BC faculty members feel the district failed to follow.

The fate of the accused faculty members is unknown, as the KCCD continues discussions on the matter.